Want to know if your teenager is speeding?
Guest Blogger Jefferson Smith lives in Boston, Massachusetts and works as a political and marketing consultant. In between writing speeches and making democracy safe for all, he obsesses over the latest innovations in electronics and the internet. You can read his personal blog coming soon at www.thinkmatter.org.
Here's his article for readers of AmericanInventorSpot.com.
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Are you a worried parent with a teen driver? A new invention by a young man from Massachusetts can monitor the speed and location of a car and is being marketed to slow down fast-driving teenagers. We all know that speed and inexperience behind wheel don't mix, but will parents sic this Big Brother-device on their teens?
Every parent worries about Sally or Jimmy turning the family sedan into a scene from The French Connection or The Fast and the Furious. Short of a speeding ticket, hardly any other tool can reliably inform parents about their child's driving habits. A teenager can easily hide the fact that they got a ticket, so what can a parent do?
Jon Fischer, an 18-year-old inventor from Lunenburg, Massachusetts, has come up with a solution. His invention is called Speed Demon; a tattletale device that records the speed, direction and street location of a vehicle operated by a teenager and is stirring up questions about teen privacy in the process.
Looking a lot like Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White in both appearance and winter sporting skills, Mr. Fischer has displayed an entrepreneurial gift for creating exciting products. His website has all the characteristics of a good start-up, displays a fantastic personal narrative and shows that he is a clever innovator dedicated to his craft.
And he has been rewarded for it. Putting Speed Demon against the rest of the nation's youth in competitions across the country, Jon has won seed money to make his product, apply for a patent and obtain sponsorships. The budding business major is learning quickly how to market an interesting (if controversial) product and he is using himself to do it. Not bad for an 18 year old.
A Controversial Approach
However, what might be good business for Mr. Fischer might be soon be bad business for your teenager.
Speed Demon is quickly becoming a popular subject of the news media, and several outlets have grabbed the idea for feature stories - making some teenagers squirm, and some parents celebrate. This device, it seems, is closer to your household than you think.
Speed Demon Device
In spite of this, some very important questions are brimming below the surface of Mr. Fischer's product. Does Speed Demon mean that teenagers shed their rights once they close the car door? Can an automobile transform itself into an effective oversight tool for parents to protect their children?
I think we can agree that teens see the privilege of driving in a very different light than their parents. It is a way that they can get out from the under their watchful eye and travel freely with their friends. Having a car also makes more than just their own lives easier. It unburdens parents from driving them to work, school or extracurricular activities.
Speed Demon takes advantage of a portion of the wide-open transportation market. While speeding tickets teach a lesson, it's one that is short-lived. Surcharges on your insurance just hurt your wallet. And simply telling your kids not to speed doesn't work (trust me).
Some Similarities, Differences Abound
InterlockTeens could see Jon's innovation as a form of punishment. For example, many states require dashboard breathalyzer's, or so-called ‘ignition interlock devices', to be installed for repeat drunk drivers. Once you are determined to be a habitual drunk driver, a person is required to have this breathalyzer installed prior to driving. If they fail, the car doesn't start.
There maybe a correlation here between Speed Demon and ignition interlocks. Essentially, Mr. Fischer's innovation assumes that a teenager is going to do something wrong (much like the drunk driver) which makes teens fiercely protective of their privacy.
Enforcing Speed LimitsOn the other hand, safety is a major concern for parents. As a driver, I feel comforted knowing that repeat drunk driver's are monitored by a breathalyzer even before they can start up their car. Unfortunately for teens, it also comforts me to know that teenager's can be monitored for speeding violations, which is the precursor to reckless driving and the cause of most teenage accidents
This device may cross the privacy line, but the jury is still out on whether parents would want to be that intrusive into the lives of their children. If anything, Speed Demon has created awareness for parents and teens that safe and responsible driving is important every time you get behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported last week that for the first time in 15 years the United States saw an increase in highway fatalities in 2005. Statistically, it's getting more dangerous out there.
Perhaps the young inventor of Speed Demon has the right idea.
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